The editor asked me to write something about a wish list for 2022.
The first wish is dead easy. I wish that all shipowners would follow the excellent example of Evergreen and, when they strike lucky, because, if we are honest, luck has a lot to do with it, share their good fortune with their workforce ashore and afloat. Evergreen distributed year-end bonuses on December 30 of as much as 40 months wages to employees.
Success has a hundred parents; failure is an orphan, but shipowners are very much inclined to share their failures but not their successes. Well done, Evergreen – who have, I fancy, solved any staff shortages that they might have been experiencing.
I start to struggle now, because I have chosen to confine myself to things that are practical and which might really happen, as opposed to wishing that honesty and integrity might break out, that someone somewhere would calculate their ships’ emissions on a well to wake basis, that fools in boardrooms would learn to stop greenwashing, and so on.
None of those things are going to happen. Let’s be rather more practical. I’ll start with crew pay and conditions, because to judge by my own private grapevine, many people who work at sea have come to think, over the last two years of being cooped up in steel boxes and deprived of so much as a run ashore and a chance of fresh company, whilst being treated like subhuman plague vectors by petty bureaucrats ashore everywhere, that there might be other ways to make a living, and with global inflation now taking effect, their families are starting to become quite vocal about the need to make proper money. So, this one is in everybody’s interest.
Asset play is a zero-sum game in which fortunes are made and lost to the benefit of nobody
Practical wish no.1 – that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) jointly require all (yes, all) shipowners to make free internet access available throughout the living spaces of all ships to all members of the crew. Except in the working areas, duh. I didn’t say 24/7, but 24/7 will have to come, and Elon Musk is about to make it very easy and not silly expensive, so 24/7 in five years’ time. Get on with it, people.
Practical wish no.2 – that shipbuilders and designers start to think about crew accommodation in terms other than “just how little can we get away with?”, and since they are not going to do this voluntarily, that the IMO and the ILO stop allowing shipyards to get away with shower rooms that a man can’t turn round in, etc, etc, etc.
Practical wish no.3 – that the same two organisations stop pretending that “training” can be done by watching a computer screen in your cabin, throw out the ghost of the late William O’Neil, and make proper arrangements for real on shore training to be carried out by third parties – yes, third parties – during substantial, paid, shore leave – yes, paid shore leave – several weeks – every five years.
Practical wish number four – seafarers’ pensions. Sort it, people. Fully portable, independently regulated, seafarers’ pensions. For everybody, cruiseship stewardesses to boatswains to chief engineers.
The reader will observe that none of these wishes upsets the much-loved level playing field in any way at all.
The next one will, though. I want to see an absolute ban on all unnecessary travel to the Polar regions. No cruiseships or charter yachts in Antarctica or traversing the Northwest Passage (the Northeast Passage is a lost cause). We have only a vague idea of just how much damage we are doing, and the precautionary principle suggests that we stop, now.
Make free internet access available throughout the living spaces of all ships
This one will upset the apple cart: No shipowning company to sell a ship for further trading. Ever. You order it; you scrap it. This will of course deprive the most imaginative and hardest working people in our industry – the sale and purchase shipbrokers – of their chance to make a living. Some of them are – or were until this hit the internet – friends of mine, but I must think of what is good for everybody, and this is. Think of any closing meeting that you have ever been to – everyone on the sellers’ side is thinking “Thank goodness we are out of that wreck – whatever are the buyers thinking?” and everyone on the buyer’s side is thinking “What a bunch of fools they are to sell this ship!” It isn’t possible for both to be right. Asset play is a zero-sum game in which fortunes are made and lost to the benefit of nobody, and if shipowners were forced to own the ships they order until they scrap them, shipowners would be a sight more careful.
And no more award ceremonies. Ever.
That ought to do the trick. Happy 2022.